Champ Car World Series: Belgian Champ Car Grand Prix
Topics: Belgian Champ Car Grand Prix
August 26, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our post-race press conference here following the Champ Car Grand Prix of Belgium. We're here with our third place finisher Mr. Graham Rahal. Take us through that last battle there with Justin Wilson. It was pretty exciting coming into turn one here.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I mean, the end of the race was very exciting for me. I got a horrible start and lost another spot, so then we were kind of trying to make up time the rest of the race. At the end it was just difficult because I had to stay behind Bruno because I wasn't quite quick enough to get by him.
But to keep Justin and Will behind me was awfully tough. And in fact, I mean, I'm sure as all of you saw, Justin did get by me at one point and then he almost lost it. So I got back by.
But it was a bit of dicing, but at the end luckily I pulled a little gap on them, and we were able to cruise to the finish, which was nice.
THE MODERATOR: And our second place finisher is Dale Coyne Racing driver Bruno Junqueira. This is the first podium that Dale Coyne Racing has gotten since 2003. What does that mean for you to bring that back to this team?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I'm very happy to get a podium for the team. The team works very hard, especially the mechanics. We have three full-time mechanics, so they have to work three times as hard as any other team because there are just not enough people. So it deserves to get great results, and they are good mechanics, work very hard, and I'm very happy to get a podium and a second place for them.
I'm very happy with the result today. We started the race pretty strong, saving a lot of fuel. The first pit stop unfortunately I had a lot of problems with the pit stop. It was very slow with fueling. I think I lost like 11 positions in the first stop. So I went from just two cars behind me, Catherine and Mario Dominguez, so from 4th to 15th is hard, but I kept my head cool and kept saving fuel and doing the -- it was in good shape when it was the second yellow so I took the risk, and I started to race with Tracy, Tagliani and Oriol, and I passed Tracy and I was even doing that, and right behind Oriol I could save more fuel than them, and then I went two laps later than them, and that was able to make me stop as late as I could finish the race; I was saving a lot of fuel.
So after the last yellow it was really hard because I had to save a lot of fuel, a lot, and then I knew that Sebastien was right behind me, and when I lift to turn 11 to brake very early, use the throttle to save fuel and close to the corner, he was just pushing past alongside me and got by me.
So then it was Graham, and I said I need to hold him off, and I don't know, it just drove hard and on the limit all the time, but saving fuel, that's very difficult because you can get surprised anytime.
So I start to do a strategy, I get out of every corner and I look in my mirror, where is Graham, and just before braking look again. So it's very hard to lose the concentration but I was able not to do it and keep a good pace and good mileage to finish the race. I'm very happy, as I said before, for the team and to be back on the podium, my first podium of the year. I usually get ten every year, but this one is very sweet, and I hope we can get another great result next weekend in Assen.
I love this track. I think the track is very nice, first time Champ Car race here, very exciting track to drive around, and for sure one of the best tracks of the year. I think the quality and the action are very nice, the public is very knowledgeable with racing, they bring pictures of myself from Formula 3000, back from '99, 2000, when I was test driving. So bring a lot of memories. They bring hero cards from Champ Car 2001 when I was the young kid on the block, and I look at myself (laughing). It's very nice when I sign those things.
I had a lot of fun this weekend, and it was great to finish on the podium. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: And now Sebastien Bourdais, our winner of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Belgium. For you it's three for three here in Europe. What's your secret?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know, I guess it's been a great weekend, once again, pole and win. As I said, it wasn't exactly the target to go after the wins and everything, but if we could get it, for sure we were going to do so.
The team did a fantastic job. I think Graham's good finish was a pretty good example of how good our cars were, and we did a pretty good job this weekend.
It was really good to be back here in Europe and racing in front of a home crowd as it was for me. It was a pretty large following of French persons around, so it was really enjoyable. Obviously it's a great points day, too, since both Robert and Will don't finish on the podium, so I guess we've got to go this weekend, but there's still four races to go, so we're going to keep on plugging away for the rest of the year. Hopefully we can wrap this up before the end of the season.
THE MODERATOR: Now we'll open it up to questions from the media.
Q. Question for Graham. So far it's your best result in Champ Car. Did you expect it to come on this circuit?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, we actually had a second place in Houston, but anyway, I mean, for us it's definitely exciting to be here. But at the same time, you know, as Sebastien mentioned, it was new for most of us. I think Will has been here a couple times, but the team did such a good job preparing for this race that for us, it was just a matter of getting in the car and going as quick as we could.
Certainly, you know, as Bruno said, I really did enjoy this track. I usually like places that are pretty fast, and turns one and four definitely suited my style. I really enjoyed it. For me it was kind of natural to come here, and it was the hope to do well, and it happened.
Certainly looking forward to next weekend. Again, I hear that's a pretty quick track, so looking forward to going there, and hopefully I have a good result.
Q. Sebastien, although you led the race early, because of the fuel strategy and everything, the last third of the race or so, you weren't in the lead. Even though you knew the guys ahead of you were probably going to pit, how do you deal with that? You want to pass them, but yet at the same time you don't want to take too many chances, that sort of stuff?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I guess first it was a little easier because the guys that were in front of us were out of sequence, and we were not completely sure when they were going to have to pit. Craig figured out actually that the only one that was going to make it was Bruno, although he told me that once I had passed him (laughter). I was like, well, that's great, now we are in the lead, so no matter what happens it's going to be okay.
No, the truth is as long as Robert and Will are not in front of us, it was going to be a good points day, and as I said, we were not going to risk everything for the win, but if we could grab it, we were going to.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Why did you pass me then? Why did you take the risk?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I'm not saying we would have settled for second (laughing).
It just turned out to be a very exciting race. I think for the fans it was pretty cool, too, because it was going to be a pretty straightforward race, and when the cars got out of sync and Graham was in the pack and going really fast, we were trying to go fast but we were still trying to reach one target on fuel, so we never quite completely got to the point where we were just running flat out. It was always a very interesting race strategy-wise.
Q. Can you talk us through your passing Bruno?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, Bruno was obviously having to save a ton of fuel, and I was having to manage something that was really realistic on my end, and as soon as my tires just went up to temp, I just took the opportunity and pushed it past him. Since I knew he was having to lift and coast through corners, even if I was completely riding his rear wing approaching the braking zone, I knew we were going to end up side by side before the turn, which happened, and then we just went from there.
Q. In the very first beginning there (inaudible).
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I took a pretty good start, and I was very happy with that. I think Will's choice to put the normal Bridgestone tires compared to everybody being on reds was a bit of a mistake as cold as it was today. He probably didn't get any grip at all, which is something we noticed in the past.
You know, it was good for us, and in the meantime, Robert was -- he's the most dangerous in the championship, so good and bad, but after that we seemed to be pretty much under control and saving a lot of fuel. We never knew who was going to make which lap because we never got to that point; it was the yellow. But I think we were looking pretty strong, so I was very happy with everything.
Q. (No microphone.).
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think the curbs were fine. For sure it's a big deal if you start using them, but there are some you can and some you can't, so it's your choice. But at least it keeps people from running in the grass and dragging some stuff on the racetrack. So I think it was a fairly good compromise.
Q. Bruno, towards the end of the race pretty interesting moment when Justin tried to pass you in turn one. Can you sort of replay that one?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, I think the only mistake I made in the whole race is I passed someone back marker going to turn seven or between seven and eight, so I was saving fuel a lot, and I locked the gears and I went a little bit sideways so Justin had the run at me, and he did the chicane very close to me. My car wasn't very good in that chicane. He had the run on me in turn one. He was inside, I had the same opportunity earlier in the race, and I knew the guy when he brakes inside doesn't have much grip, so I backed off and let him keep in front.
So I knew if I was ready to see Justin sliding when he brakes so late, and he slide, and I did the exit on him. Probably he lost a few positions. But as usual he was very aggressive.
I had to save fuel. I was in a position that if I would not save fuel, I wasn't going to finish the race. So I had to be really patient because Sebastien, Graham and Justin attacking me, I had to keep saving fuel, and the best way to save fuel is just 100 yards or 200 yards before your braking point to just get out of the throttle and let the car cool. So that's how Sebastien passed me. Off throttle he was right behind me and just right by me. So it's hard, but at least I finished the race and I'm quite happy that I didn't run out of fuel.
Q. Out of curiosity, did any of the three of you use more than one set of red tires this weekend in the race?
GRAHAM RAHAL: No, but I would have.
Q. You saved your red set for last?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: At least for me it felt like the normal tires were taking a long time to come in because it was pretty cold out there, there was no sun, and front tires especially. So I had a little bit too much with them. It felt pretty good at least, but I didn't really want to separate myself from the rest of the pack, and since I knew Robert was putting on normal tires because he had put them again on the second stint, I decided to stick with the field.
GRAHAM RAHAL: I started on blacks, the normal Bridgestone tire, and I put reds on there at the very end, and I ran in the last stint. But what happened was right before that last yellow where everybody came in together, I had put them on about four laps before then. So I basically did a stint and a half on reds, which actually surprised me because they were very consistent.
At the end I wasn't quite as quick as Bruno. I started to slide around a little bit. But certainly the longevity of the tire definitely surprised me because if you would have said yesterday in qualifying or something that the reds would have lasted that long, I would have said no way because certainly I felt like you could feel a step within the first few laps.
I mean, they did a great job today. I actually preferred the black tires when we were in the lead there for a little while and we were running really fast laps, and then my car was -- I think I said on the radio, it was perfect. It was really good, and I could go really fast, and on the reds maybe not so much. But they were definitely pretty good all day, and the tires were certainly, like I said, the longevity definitely surprised me.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for being here.
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